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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

OLYMPIAN EFFORT: Princeton senior forward Gretchen Anderson squeezes between two New Hampshire defenders in recent action. Anderson has a team-leading 15 goals for the 7-5 Tigers and is shooting to earn a berth on the U.S. women's national team for the 2006 Olympics.
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Anderson on Fire for Tiger Women's Ice Hockey As She Shoots For Final Four and 2006 Olympics

By Bill Alden

Gretchen Anderson learned to play ice hockey on a frozen pond across the street from her family's home in Wellesley, Mass. when she was a toddler.

Dragged onto the ice by her four older brothers, Anderson grew from being their "toy" in neighborhood hockey battles into one of the best prep players in New England and a mainstay for the Princeton University women's ice hockey team.

Now, the senior forward is hoping that her skills in the game she loves will take her to the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, Italy as a member of the U.S. women's national team.

Anderson is certainly taking her game to a new level as she winds up her college career, having scored a team-leading 15 goals for the 7-5 Tigers.

The outgoing and affable 5'6 Anderson attributes her blazing start, in part, to having played the last two summers on the U.S. Under-22 team. "It's so much better to be playing with people who are better than you are," explained Anderson after a recent practice at Baker Rink.

"It gives me a taste of what I can have if I work hard. That's ultimately what I want. It's been my dream to play in the 2006 Olympics."

So while many of her classmates put on their suits and interview for jobs in the real world after graduation, Anderson is focused on succeeding in the hockey world.

"A part of me wants to do that, to get in the work force and be independent," said Anderson, flashing a ready grin and then breaking into her infectious chuckle.

"But the other part of me realizes that I can work the rest of my life. I want to play on the national team the next few years. I think that they're going to have a full-time training team so that will basically be my full-time job. I think that's good experience, it will help me in the long run to grow in other ways."

Anderson has left no stone unturned in her effort to make an impact on the national level. She has made herself into a two-way player, diligently working to get her defensive skills on par with her offensive game.

In addition, she has dedicated herself to getting in the best shape possible, working extensively over last summer with Boston-area conditioning guru Mike Boyle, who helps train the Boston Bruins of the NHL and the Boston University men's hockey program.

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal believes that Anderson's dedication has resulted in her becoming one of the best players to ever wear the Princeton uniform.

"There are a lot of good players on the college level, but there are not a lot of great goal scorers," said Kampersal of Anderson who has 72 career goals and could end up as one of the top five goal scorers in Princeton history if she keeps up her current scoring pace.

"Gretchen is one of those kids who makes a difference. She's driven to produce. She has been a real catalyst for us. She's a constant scoring threat on the ice and she has kickstarted our offense this year. She's completely on fire."

Anderson is dedicated to getting the most out of her senior season. "We have a great chemistry on the team," said Anderson, who is one of the squad's assistant captains. "It's been the best four years of my life. It's very, very bittersweet coming to the end. I've only got 20 games left. It's been a great experience and I try to never take it for granted."

Kampersal believes Anderson can have a great experience for the national team if she keeps working hard. "Gretchen needs to prove that she can score at the next level," said Kampersal, who was an assistant coach this summer for the U-22 team. "She's gone up to play with the U-22s two years in a row and has done really well. She needs a longer period to be evaluated. She's knocking on the door."

But as Kampersal will tell you, the more you see Anderson play, the more you like her. "When you get to watch her every day it's a treasure and a pleasure," said Kampersal, whose club plays at Findlay in Ohio on December 13 and 14. "When you watch her, you automatically become a fan."

Before she embarks on her quest to make it to the 2006 Olympics, Anderson wants to give some more joy to Princeton hockey fans. "Our program has just been getting better and better the last few years," asserted Anderson, whose 19 goals last season led Princeton to a program-record 20 victories and a spot in the ECAC Final Four.

"We want to finish in the top 1, 2, or 3 in the ECAC playoffs so we can get home ice for the playoffs. I think we can make the national Final Four. We belong there, we need to prove that to the league and the country."

After that, Anderson can then prove that she belongs on the U.S. national team.


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